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April 4, 1990

It's Important, but Don't Bank on Exercise Alone to Prevent Osteoporosis, Experts Say

JAMA. 1990;263(13):1751-1752. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440130021005

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ALTHOUGH exercise is essential for building and maintaining sound bones, it is not a panacea for preventing osteoporosis, as portrayed by some reports in the lay news media, says Barbara L. Drinkwater, PhD, a research physiologist at Pacific Medical Center, Seattle, Wash. Relying on exercise instead of estrogen replacement therapy for postmenopausal women, who are at risk for developing osteoporosis, "is like playing Russian roulette with their bones," she warned at the Second International Research Advances in Osteoporosis Conference, in Arlington, Va.

While ample evidence exists that long periods of immobility can lead to serious bone loss (irreversible bone loss also occurs during extended periods of weightlessness and is a serious problem confronting American and Soviet manned space programs), there is no evidence that intensive exercise will prevent the rapid bone loss many women experience during the first decade following menopause, Drinkwater says.

Exercise and Estrogen?  "If you look at